Castle of Almourol – Legacy of the Knights Templar (History & Travel Tips)

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The Castle of Almourol is a medieval-era Portuguese architectural masterpiece that boasts quite a rich and eventful history. It’s said to be part of the defensive line controlled by the Knights Templar and is recognized as one of the most beautiful historical buildings in all of Portugal. Let’s look at its history, interesting facts, and how it fares today:

The Templar-style architecture of the castle never fails to fascinate history buffs and architectural aficionados alike.

The Castle of Almoural on its regal perch.
The Castle of Almoural on its regal perch. isogood, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Frequently Asked Questions

FOR HISTORY | BEAUTIFUL IMAGES | INTERESTING FACTS | TRAVEL TIPS

Early History

Predating the Knights Templar

The Castle of Almourol stands on a site that has uncovered distinguished historical roots. Data derived from excavations have led to the discovery that it was once conquered by the Romans and successively invaded by the Alans, Visigoths, and even the Berbers from Andalusian lands. It was last in the possessions of the Moors, who named it al-Mouro (literal translation: high stone).

A portrait of Gualdim Paes of the Knights Templar.
A portrait of Gualdim Paes of the Knights Templar. Roque Gameiro, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Original Construction (12th Century)

The Castle of Almourol that we see today was built by the Order of the Knights Templar, specifically by Gualdim Pais, who was also the founder of the city of Tomar. The location was chosen for its immense strategic benefits during the Reconquista (the Christian Portuguese reclamation of Portugal from the Moors). Construction began in 1171 AD, which is confirmed by an inscription carved onto the main gate. 

The Knights Templar disbanded in 1312 AD, after which the castle was owned by the Portuguese crown. It later passed to the Order of the Christ and was severely damaged in an earthquake in 1755.

A 1909 image of the Castle of Almoural.
A 1909 image of the Castle of Almoural. George Eastman Museum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Romanticist Makeover (19th Century)

The castle stayed stagnant through the tides of history until it was rediscovered in the 19th century and revamped in the medieval romantic style. There were many architectural additions made to the facade of the castle during this time, leading to it being one of the most intriguing and beautiful castles in Portugal.

An aerial view of the structure of Castle of Almourol.
An aerial view of the structure of Castle of Almourol. FenandoLBMaria, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Current Times

The Castle of Almourol became the Official Residence of the Republic of Portugal in the twentieth century. This led to several new architectural interventions being carried out on the facade of the castle, including, but not limited to, the addition of bartizans and crenelations. During this time, the castle was used to host a number of important government events. Many parts were adapted for this new usage with furniture commissioned to accommodate the venture. The castle is now under the guardianship of Portugal’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, and open to the general public.

A gorgeous river-side picture of Almoural Castle today.
A gorgeous river-side picture of Almoural Castle today. Cardilio, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Today, it’s a keeper that spans 3 stories, surrounded by a wall embellished with various battlements, towers, and crenellations. Both its interior and exterior are an ode to its significant history and roots.

Interesting Castle of Almourol Facts

  • In 2004, some of the exterior walls of the Castle of Almourol were damaged due to water infiltration.
  • The Templar-style architecture of the castle never fails to fascinate history buffs and architectural aficionados alike.
  • The very first origin of the castle is believed to have been a Lusitanian fort that stood even before the Roman conquest.
  • The interior is furnished with wall panels, period objects, and even mannequins wearing chain mail. Everything has been strategically arranged to help visitors understand the essence of the medieval age.

Visiting Castle of Almourol – Tips and Tricks

The unique location, interesting history, and beautiful design of the Castle of Almourol has led it to be one of the most notable visitor attractions in Portugal. If you’re planning to visit, then do make some time to go there. Here’s all the information you’ll need to add it to your itinerary:

A stunning image of the Castle of Almoural and its surroundings against an evening sky.
A stunning image of the Castle of Almoural and its surroundings against an evening sky. Andre Carvalho, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How to get to Castle of Almourol?

The Castle of Almourol can be easily reached from the city of Tomar. You can take a 30-minute train ride from Tomar to Entroncamento, from where you can board the line 648 bus at the Entroncamento station. It will take you to Tancos village, where you can catch the boat to the islet where the castle sits. The entire journey takes 2 and a half hours and costs €4-€5 ($5-$6 USD).

Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips

The Castle of Almourol is open all year round, except for New Years, Easter, and Christmas. Opening times vary. From March to October, you can visit anywhere between 10:00 am to 7:00 pm. Do remember that there’s a short break (siesta!) between 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm. From November to February, it can be visited between 1:00 pm to 5:30 pm.

As for the ticket, the entrance fee and boat ride on both sides cost a total of €4 ($5 USD). Overall, it’s a pretty good deal for a short visit.

The Castle of Almourol's view at night.
The Castle of Almourol’s view at night. FenandoLBMaria, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How Long Will It Take to Tour Around?

One hour is long enough to fully explore the Castle of Almourol.

Some words of advice and tips: 

  • Keep some cash handy, as you’ll have to pay for the boat ride (€4 /$5 USD) that will take you to the isle on which the castle sits.
  • It’s recommended to bring a small snack because the cafe inside the castle only serves soda and ice cream.
  • There are abandoned orange gardens along the shore that can be explored by visitors.

Quick Video Tour of The Main Castle of Almourol Areas

Zunaira Ghazal
Zunaira Ghazal
Zunaira is an architect and designer on paper, but a writer at heart. She’s got a Bachelors in Architecture and a passion for traveling, both of which combine in her writings about timeworn castles and fortresses that have withstood the tests of time and stand proud to this day.

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